02/12/2015 09:14 EST | Updated 04/14/2015 05:59 EDT

Give Valentine's Gifts That Are Child Labour Free



It's been eight dark, frigid weeks since Christmas. You've shoveled enough snow to build an indoor ski hill and forgotten what your hair looked like before wooly hats.

Then suddenly, it's Valentine's Day. Sound the trumpets! Red hearts are everywhere...and isn't that Frank Sinatra on the radio? Best of all, the stores are full of sweet things to buy for those you love.

At this point in the winter, I need the fun of Valentine's Day as much as the next person. My heart-shaped cake pan is sitting at the ready, and I've just made a reservation for lunch with my husband. I can't wait to sit with my son tonight, as he picks which super hero Valentine's card to give to which classmate.

But when it comes to chocolate, my heart stops cold. Once you know where too much of our chocolate comes from, buying it's not so much fun anymore.

Working with World Vision, I know that too much chocolate available in our stores comes at the heartbreaking expense of some 2 million children worldwide. These are the boys and girls forced to work on cocoa plantations. I've seen the pictures and video of children swinging machetes sharp enough to take a foot off, or spraying toxic chemicals without any proactive gear. I've listened to interviews with mothers whose children have been abducted to work as slaves.


But knowing this doesn't mean we need to give up Valentine's, or even chocolate for that matter. Here are some of the things I've done this year, to keep the fun in Valentine's Day and honour those I love, while caring for children around the world:

  1. Give fun instead of chocolate: For my son's classmates, I found tiny heart-shaped mazes with little silver balls to manipulate from one side to another. Stickers or heart erasers are other options.
  2. Pick good chocolate: Visit World Vision's Good Chocolate Guide, to learn which brands are certified to be free from child labour. Cadbury has Fairtrade-certified Dairy Milk bars, which are available in most drug stores. I've bought one for my husband, to be wrapped in red tissue and a ribbon.
  3. Look for other sweeteners: I found some beautiful jars of Fairtrade-certified jam in the gourmet section of my grocery store, which I'll give to my mom and my children's teachers.
  4. Bake instead of buy: The annual cake from my inexpensive heart-shaped pan is a beloved tradition in our home, and says "love" to my kids more than just about anything I buy. Consider baking cookies for colleagues or kids' classmates.
  5. Consider an activity instead: Why not go out for lunch, a skate or a movie together? My husband and kids look forward to the time we spend together as much as they do the sweet treats.
  6. Leave a loving legacy: Sign World Vision's petition, urging Cadbury to produce ethical Easter eggs for the Canadian market, as they do in Australia. You'll be showing love to people you'll never meet, but whose lives are directly affected by the purchases we make.